This post regarding Common Ships is part of a series of articles that fall under listbuilding. I'll be discussing the "generic" or non-unique pilots and their ships and strategies. For the rest of the listbuilding articles, click the List Building Resources tab at the top or simply click here.
Common Pilots: Academy, Obsidian, Black Squadron
Stock Actions: Barrel Roll, Evade, Focus
Breakdown: Ah, the ubiquitous TIE Fighter. Alone, the stats aren't much to get excited over, but 1) He's rarely alone, and 2) don't forget he has a movement dial that's pretty effin' brilliant. Don't let yourself get caught up in the X-Wing version of math-hammer here where you look only at stats and probabilities in a vacuum. Also start thinking more "Death by 1,000 cuts" rather than "Death by one huge chop" and you'll start to see the potential of the plain jane TIE Fighter.
There are three types, and as you'd expect, the only differences between them are their points and Pilot Skill, save for the Black which also gets a shiny Elite Pilot Skill, should you choose to take advantage of the option. Aside from that, it's slim pickings on the upgrades and whatnots- Modifications are the only thing available as they don't have missile or torpedo tubes, room for Crew Members, or the ability to stock Secondary Weapon Systems.
Academy Pilot is Pilot Skill 1, but as noted above, will only set you back 12 points. Obsidian, arguably the least popular of the Common TIEs, clocks in at Pilot Skill 3 for 13 points, and Black Squadron will run you 14 points for PS 4.
If you've played the game much at all, you've undoubtedly at least heard of the infamous TIE Swarm that was quite popular during Wave 1. It's pretty much what it sounds like- usually 5-7 TIEs, a couple of them unique, the rest common, sometimes with Vader, sometimes not.
The cons of a TIE Swarm are pretty straightforward- it's difficult to maneuver that many ships in a semi-coherent way, let alone a formation. It can be done, of course, but it's not the easiest thing in the world. As many TIE Swarms relied on Howlrunner, and subsequently had to stay within Range 1 of her to take advantage of her ability, they not only had to fly in formation, but also had to try and run interference for her, lest she get blasted out of the firmament.
The pros helped make that job a little easier. Running that many ships meant it wasn't quite the end of the world if a couple of them overlapped and somebody lost their Action- especially if that somebody was just some random, common TIE that your opponent was unlikely to fire upon anyway in favor of higher priority targets. Additionally, if your opponent's ideas of strategic deployment and maneuvering involved plopping all his bases down in a pile in the middle of his deployment zone and pushing them forward at max speed, it wasn't out of the question to use some of those low-Pilot Skill common TIEs to cause him to lose his Perform Action step as well.
Me personally, I think the key to running TIEs is to simply do whatever you can to get as many of them firing on the same target as possible. It's probably not unlike how you used Guard Infantry platoons if you played Guard in 40k or knew someone who did. You wouldn't have three Guard platoons fire on three separate targets (well, not if you wanted to win, anyway)- you had all three of them fire on the same target until it was dead. This same strategy can be applied not only to the TIEs Attack, but even to their maneuver selection. Points-wise, you should have one and a half to two TIEs for each enemy ship- send one TIE long, but keep the other one short, or send one Turning right, but have the second ship simply bank right. Hedge your bets. Sure, you can always K-Turn, but if you can get to where at least one of those two TIEs is firing with a Focus token because he didn't have to K-Turn, it'll help make those 2 Attack dice just a little more effective. Use the buddy system, even if you don't have a traditional TIE swarm list; any Rebel ship is going to down a TIE on it's own, but if you have a pair of them, it's much tougher to get them both. Pair your ships up, have them go after the same target both in maneuvering and in Attacking, and you'll have great success.
As mentioned previously, the Black Squadron Pilot can select an Elite Pilot Skill. So what's a good match for a common TIE? Well, as I do sometimes, I think the answer lies as much in what doesn't make sense as to what does. Expert Handling likely isn't all that helpful on a common TIE because you probably aren't going to be TL'ed all that often (at least not as often as a more high-profile TIE or other Imperial ship), Squad Leader isn't all that effective on a PS 4 ship, and the same goes for Swarm Tactics although keep in mind while Swarm Tactics on a PS 4 ship by itself is nothing to write home about, it is worth noting that ST can "chain" or relay a higher Pilot Skill from another Swarm Tactics. Click on the Swarm Tactics link and you'll see what I'm talking about. Marksmanship seems kinda expensive for a 2 Attack ship, but I could see making a case for it to try and inflict a crit on a big ship, and Determination is always a possibility as it's only a point and you have no shields. As for the Wave 2 stuff, I'm not nuts about Draw Their Fire, though some folks are, Veteran Instincts is another one of those "Probably not the smartest thing you've done all day, but unlikely to be the stupidest" kind of options, Deadeye is pointless, and I'm not crazy about Daredevil as you're either likely to hurt yourself or you're paying for Daredevil as well as Engine Upgrade when you've already got a free Barrel Roll at your disposal. I could see a case being made for either Elusiveness or Push The Limit either one, but I think the thing that'd really catch folks off guard would be Expose. Dig this- for one, you've already got 3 Evade dice to begin with, for two, if you've got a better pilot floating around like Mithel, Howlrunner, Vader, Turd Ferguson, etc., you've now left your opponent with a tough decision- go after those named guys or put up with the damage from a 3 Attack TIE Fighter that only costs 17 points. I know, I know, for that much you could have Mithel or Howlrunner. Well, what if you already have Mithel and Howlrunner in your list already? Don't immediately dismiss the notion is all I'm saying.
EDIT: Darth Flages points out in the comments something that I should have mentioned here but didn't- Swarm Tactics can be used to relay other instances of Swarm Tactics. I talked about this in the actual Swarm Tactics article, but really could have done a better job pointing it out here. I've edited the above paragraph to reflect.
Regarding Mods, I don't know- again I think Barrel Roll is contextually similar enough to Boost to discount Engine Upgrade, but I could see either Stealth Device or Shield Upgrade working for a common TIE. I'm not 100% sold on the idea of the points to buy one of those Mods actually being well-spent mind you, I'm just saying I could see either of those gambits keeping a ship in the game a little longer than it has any business hanging around. Really though, I think leave the Mods at home on these guys- they're not likely to be high priority targets anyway. Run them lean and mean, and use any leftover points to boost up their offensive output somehow instead.